Local government elections

​​​​​Local government elections are a vital part of Western Australia's democratic system.

A stylised banner with an image of an outdoor cinema with the words, 'Local government elections 2023. Speak for those who can't. Stand for your local council. Nominations open 31 August 2023.'

Under the Local Government Act 1995 (Act), Ordinary local government elections are held every 2 years on the third Saturday in October. Council members are elected for a term of up to 4 years.

The next Ordinary election will be held on 18 October 2025.

Toolkit for local governments 

To help local governments inform ratepayers of the electoral reforms and how they will affect the upcoming elections, we have created this toolkit.


The Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC) is the lead State agency for electoral services in WA. The WAEC also plays a key role in local government elections.

Ahead of a local election, each local council will determine whether the local election will be conducted by in-person or postal voting. If the election will be by postal voting, the WAEC must conduct the election on behalf of the local government.

The majority of local governments elect to hold postal voting elections conducted by the WAEC.

If the election will be by in-person voting, then either the local government or the WAEC may conduct the election. This is determined by the local council. 

Local government elections management

Following local government elections, returning officers need to submit Form 20 reports to the Minister. The portal to submit the Form 20 is currently being updated and will be available soon.


Voting in a local government election is not compulsory in Western Australia. However, all local electors are strongly encouraged to vote.

All eligible electors must enrol to vote. When you enrol to vote, you are enrolled for Commonwealth, State and local government elections. You can check your enrolment online.

All residents in a local government district who are enrolled on the State Electoral Roll are automatically enrolled on the corresponding local government roll.

People who own or occupy property within a local government district, who meet the requirements of the Local Government Act 1995 and regulations can apply to their local government to be included on the roll as an owner/occupier, as long as they are eligible electors. A body corporate may apply to have up to two eligible electors to be included on the owner/occupier roll to vote on its behalf.

All eligible electors are allowed to vote once in any district or ward where they are enrolled. If a person lives within one local district or ward, and owns or occupies property in a different district or ward, they may be entitled to a vote in both areas, provided they are enrolled for both. For more information or to enrol as an owner/occupier, contact your local government.

In-person and postal voting

Where an in-person election is held, electors may apply for a postal vote, absentee vote or an early vote if they are not able to go to a polling booth on election day.

Returning officers

The conduct of each local election is managed by a returning officer.

The Electoral Commissioner appoints returning officers for postal elections and in-person elections conducted by the WAEC. A list of these returning officers is available on the WAEC website.

If the local government decides to conduct the election, the chief executive officer of the local government is the returning officer, unless the local government decides to appoint another person to perform the function.

For these elections, please contact the relevant local government for more information.

Extraordinary elections

The office of a member of council as an elected mayor or president, or as a councillor, becomes vacant in certain circumstances as listed in the Act.

Following the 2023 election where optional preferential voting (OPV) is used, backfilling options will now apply to those candidates elected under the new Schedule 4.1 or Schedule 4.1A. Therefore a future vacancy may be filled by the first and second unelected candidates under Schedule 4.1A for the next 12-month period in lieu of holding an extraordinary election.

The first and second unelected candidates are the unsuccessful candidates who would have been next placed in the order of votes received. In the event that a position becomes available within 12 months of the current election, the first unelected candidate in the election for that position will be asked to complete the term of office. If they decline, the second unelected candidate will be asked to complete the term of office. If both candidates decline, an extraordinary election will be required to be held at a later date.

Actions are directly related to the time a resignation has been received, as there are options to either backfill (as mentioned above); apply to leave the vacancy unfilled in certain circumstances or to hold an extraordinary election in order to fill the vacancy.

Other elections

The Act provides for elections to be held in certain circumstances, such as:

  • a restructure of districts or wards
  • the reinstatement of a council following suspension
  • all offices become vacant
  • a council is dismissed.

Public notices

Public notice of local government elections are published in accordance with the requirements of the Act. The notices provide details about enrolling to vote, nominating to be a candidate in the elections, the ways in which a vote can be cast and the date of the election.

Returning Officer Manual

Local government elections are an important means by which council members are held accountable for their performance as community representatives. Local governments play a key role in supporting the integrity of the election process.

Elections must be conducted to the highest standards of fairness and propriety to maintain public confidence in the democratic process. It is the returning officer’s responsibility to ensure those standards are achieved.

The Returning Officer Manual is an important resource for returning officers.

Schedule 2.3 Election Sheet

The direct election by the council of its mayor or president and of the deputy mayor or deputy president in all local governments is an important process. It is noted that only some class 3 and 4 local governments have a direct election of the mayor or president, with other local government conducting this as a vote of electors.

The DLGSC has prepared the Schedule 2.3 Election sheet to assist local governments in conducting elections in accordance with Schedule 2.3 of the Local Government Act 1995. This spreadsheet can also be used for the election of the presiding member and deputy presiding member of a committee of the council.

The spreadsheet can be used to assist in completing the distributions of preferences in the election in accordance with the requirements under the Local Government (Constitution) Regulations 1998.

Results of Election Form

The Director General of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries approved the Result of Election (Form 19) in accordance with regulation 80(10) of the Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997.

Presiding/Electoral Officer Manual

The presiding officer, also known as an electoral officer, is pivotal to the smooth running of an election. 

Presiding and electoral officers must act lawfully, professionally, impartially and with fairness, honesty and integrity and follow procedures correctly. The manner in which a presiding or electoral officer carries out their functions is under scrutiny on an election day.

The Presiding Officer Manual is an important resource for presiding and electoral officers.

Guide for Scrutineers

Scrutineers play an important role in local government elections. Candidates have the right to appoint scrutineers to represent their interests by observing the conduct of the election at close hand to check that legal requirements are being met.

Scrutineers must understand the election process, and the responsibilities and duties of the individuals involved, so they can fulfill their role effectively.

The Guide for Scrutineers provides useful information for scrutineers.

Key election milestones

Days from polling day Election activities or eventsRelevant Act sections or RegulationsDayDate
371 to 98
If an elected member's office becomes vacant on or between these days, the council may, with the approval of the Electoral Commissioner, allow the vacancy to remain unfilled until the ordinary election.
LGA s4.16(4)
LGA s4.17(2)
Saturday to Saturday
15/10/2022 to 
If an elected member's office becomes vacant on or after this day the vacancy will remain unfilled until the ordinary election.
LGA s4.16(2)(3)
LGA s4.17(1)
Last day for local governments to gain agreement from the Electoral Commissioner to conduct the election (compulsory if intent is to hold a postal election).
LGA s4.20 (2)(3)(4)
LGA s4.61
A decision for the Electoral Commissioner to conduct the election cannot be rescinded after this day.
LGA s4.20(6)
LGA s4.61(5)
77 to 63
Between these days, the CEO of the local government is to give Statewide public notice of the closing date and time for elector enrolments.LGA s4.39(2)Saturday to Saturday
Last day for the local government's CEO to advise the Electoral Commissioner of the need to prepare an updated residents roll.LGA s4.40(1)Saturday
63Advertising may begin for council nominations from 63 days, and no later than 52 days, before election day.
LGA s4.47(1)
Close of rolls — 5.00pm
LGA 4.39(1)
Last day for advertisement to be placed calling for council nominations.LGA s4.47(1)Wednesday
Nominations open
First day for candidates to lodge completed nomination papers, in the prescribed form, with the returning officer. Nominations are open for 8 days.
LGA s4.49(a)
Close of nominations — 4.00pm
LGA 4.49(a)
Last day for the Electoral Commissioner to prepare an updated residents roll for the election. Last day for the local government's CEO to prepare an owners and occupiers roll.
LGA s4.40(2)
LGA s4.41(1)
Returning officer to give Statewide public notice of the election as soon as practicable but no later than 26 days before election day.
LGA s4.64(1)
As soon as practicable
The preparation of any consolidated roll (combined roll of residents, owners and occupiers) under regulation 18(1) is to be completed on or before this day.
LGA s4.38(1)
Reg. 18(1)(2)
Last day for the returning officer to give Statewide public notice of the election (public holiday 25/9/23).
LGA s4.64(1)
4Close of absent voting and close of postal vote applications for 'voting in person' elections — 4.00pm.
LGA s4.68(1)(c)
Reg. 37(3)(4)

Close of early voting for 'voting in person' elections — 4.00pm.
LGA s4.71(1)(e)
Reg. 59(2)
Election day
Close of poll — 6.00pm.
LGA s4.7
LGA s4.68(1)(e) 
Election results declared and published.
LGA s4.77
As soon as practicable
2 to 14
Report to Minister. The report relating to an election under section 4.79 is to be provided to the Minister within 14 days after the declaration of the result of the election. (See Online 'Form 20' at elections.dlgsc.wa.gov.au)
LGA s4.79(1)(2)
Reg. 81
As soon as practicable
Within 28 days of result publication
An invalidity complaint can be made to a Court of Disputed Returns, constituted by a magistrate, but can only be made within 28 days after notice is given of the result of the election.
LGA s4.81(1)
As applicable
Within 2 months of result declaration
Newly elected members to make their declarations of office.
LGA s2.29(1)(2)
LGA s2.32(c)
LGA s2.34(1)(c)
As soon as practicable
Within 3 months of members making declarations
Newly elected members to lodge their Primary Returns with the local government's CEO.
LGA s5.75(1)
As soon as practicable
*All Act sections refer to the Local Government Act 1995. All regulations refer to the Local Government (Elections) Regulations 1997.

Complaints about result of election (Invalidity Complaint)

In accordance with sections 4.80 and 4.81 of the Local Government Act 1995, within 28 days after notice is given of the result of the election, a person may make an invalidity complaint to the Court of Disputed Returns (Magistrate’s Court). The invalidity complaint is a complaint that:

  • an election is invalid;
  • another person should be declared elected;
  • the term of office of a councillor should be longer or shorter than the term determined by the returning officer; or
  • the declaration of the second or third place candidate by the returning officer be changed

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries does not provide legal advice and strongly advises any person (including candidates and their supporters) seek their own independent legal advice concerning the invalidity of an election, before making a complaint to the Magistrates Court.

Getting out the vote

Historically voter turnout in Western Australian local government elections has been very low. In 2021 the percentage of people who voted was around 27%. 

To help improve this, DLGSC and WALGA have joined forces to create a campaign to increase turn out by 3%.

Play your part in increasing voter turnout by amplifying this campaign through your social media channels.

Here are a couple examples of ready made social media collateral you can use.

More collateral and design files to help you brand the message with images and examples from your local government is available on the campaign page.
Page reviewed 06 June 2024